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Elon Musk's Wikipedia page states that he has bachelor's degrees in physics and economics, referencing various sources including a biography by Ashlee Vance.

… the University of Pennsylvania, where he completed studies for a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics and a Bachelor of Science degree in economics …
… In 1995, he was accepted to a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in materials science at Stanford University. However, Musk decided to join the Internet boom, instead dropping out — Elon Musk - Wikipedia

However, various websites and some celebrities recently have claimed that Musk lied about his degrees and that he does not have a bachelor's in physics or in science in general, some of them claiming that there is evidence of this in court transcripts.

Someone has to say it: Elon Musk has lied for 27 years about his credentials. He does not have a BS in Physics, or any technical field. Did not get into a PhD program. Dropped out in 1995 & was illegal. Later, investors quietly arranged a diploma - but not in science,"

Is this correct? Does Musk have a bachelor's in physics as he claims, or not?

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    "Dropped out in 1995 & was illegal" - what was illegal? Dec 2, 2022 at 16:17
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    @pacoverflow - I assume the post is trying to say that he overstayed his visa.
    – Obie 2.0
    Dec 2, 2022 at 16:19
  • I'm not really sure, but I think he can buy Harvard ... twice! Jan 12 at 15:47
  • The USA is what I would call a world of nigh infinite possibilities. I've heard many, many stories of people dropping out of schools and colleges. If the US of A is to do justice to its name as The Land of Opportunity, it's time to award fractional degrees. For example, if I quit after only 1 year from a 3-year PhD in physics, I should be eligible for and therefore awarded 1/3 of the degree. This aut nihil aut Caesar attitude/policy is really, really depressing. We could then pick up where we left off the last time, oui? Jan 12 at 15:51

2 Answers 2

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According to Ron Ozio (Director, Media Relations at UPenn) in an email on Plainsite:

Elon Musk earned a B.A. in physics and a B.S. in economics (concentrations: finance and entrepreneurial management) from the University of Pennsylvania. The degrees were awarded on May 19, 1997.

About Stanford, their director confirms Musk's acceptance (and lack of enrollment):

Dear Elon,

As per special request from my colleagues in the School of Engineering, I have searched Stanford's admission data base and acknowledge that you applied and were admitted to the graduate program in Material Science Engineering in 1995. Since you did not enroll, Stanford is not able to issue you an official certification document.

Sincerely,
Judith Haccou, Director

The source is a document that also contains scans of Musk's degrees from a lawsuit.

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    These facts appear inconsistent at first glance. How is it possible that Musk could be admitted to a postgraduate program in 1995 if he wasn’t awarded any undergraduate degrees until 1997? Should I ask this as a new question, maybe? Dec 15, 2022 at 17:28
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    @Hydrargyrum I don't know all the details of what happened, but if you're not planning to take a gap year, you would apply to grad school around December or earlier if you're planning to graduate undergrad in the following spring. He might have anticipated graduating undergrad in spring 1995, applied in late 1994, been accepted in January 1995, but then didn't graduate and couldn't accept the grad school offer.
    – Laurel
    Dec 15, 2022 at 17:44
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    It took him an additional year to obtain two bachelor degrees at once, according to the biography by Vance Jan 14 at 17:16
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The statements made in Wikipedia are backed up by reputable references, including Encyclopedia Britannica.

By contrast the posts claiming that he lied are absolutely not reputable. They consist of a random Reddit post and an obscure website that isn't even making the claim itself but is just quoting an even more obscure source that cites no evidence to back up its claim.

Moreover the second-hand claims of deceit are deliberately designed to be weaselly. They say "[Musk] does not have a BS in Physics", which is technically true but irrelevant, since he has a BA in physics which is an equivalent qualification. Musk does not claim to have a BS in physics. Many qualified scientists have BAs in physics, including myself and Stephen Hawking. They also say "[Musk] did not get into a PhD program. Dropped out in 1995." The statements are contradictions since you cannot "drop out" of a PhD program if you didn't get into one. Musk does not claim to have completed a PhD.

Qualifications are easy to fact check since most universities will confirm the qualifications of any graduate to anyone who asks. We can assume that at least the Encyclopedia Britannica has done that.

The evidence supporting the truth of Musk's qualifications is strong. The claims against are unsupported by evidence.

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    Is a UPenn BA in Physics equivalent to what other institutions give as a BS in Physics? The Physics department of the University I attended offered both BS and BA degrees; but they weren't equivalent. It's BS in Physics and BS in Physics and Astronomy degrees were conventional primary majors. It's BA in Physics and Astronomy was maybe half as large (roughly equivalent to a physics minor and an astronomy minor), and intended as a second major. Dec 1, 2022 at 22:20
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    I don't recall if it was ever explicitly stated, but it felt intended as a way to salvage something for people who realized the BS wasn't for them. (I did this after concluding I wasn't as good at advanced math as more basic stuff.) Dec 1, 2022 at 22:21
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    My undergrad alma mater did not award a BS degree in physics. The college of arts and sciences instead awarded a BA degree in physics (that college only awarded BA degrees to undergrads) while the college of engineering awarded a BS degree in applied & engineering physics (that college only awarded BS degrees to undergrads). We took many of the same core courses. We didn't have to take foreign language courses (but we could) and they didn't have to take engineering courses (but they could). That's about it. The claim about a BA vs BS degree is BS. Dec 1, 2022 at 23:23
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    @Henry, "BA" and "BS" are just names. What matters is the content of the degree programs, which cannot be inferred from the names alone.
    – Mark
    Dec 2, 2022 at 4:20
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    The university from which I got my BSEE offered only the BA designation for the Physics undergraduate degree, which required 140 semester hours vs. the 120 that were required of humanities majors. I just checked, and in the intervening decades, they have added a BS option, lowered the semester hour requirement to 120 for both BA and BS, and added other requirements (research, publication). The university is currently ranked in the top 20 in the US generally, top 30 in physics.
    – shoover
    Dec 2, 2022 at 7:04

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